Supreme Court of Canada Strikes Down Mandatory Sex Offender Registry Law
Defendants who plead guilty or are convicted of a sex crime should not be automatically added to a sex offender registry. Automatic sentencing doesn’t work in America, but Canada has provided the blueprint as to why mandatory sex offender registration is wrong.
In 2011, Canada enacted a policy whereby anyone convicted of a sex crime was automatically added to the sex offender registry. Anyone with two sex offense convictions was added to the registry for life.
In 2015, Eugene Ndhlovu plead guilty to two counts of sexual assault of two women at a house party when Ndhlovu was 19 years old. He had no prior criminal record and was deemed a low re-offender risk. Ndhlovu was sentenced to six months in jail and then three years of probation. Ndhlovu was also ordered to enroll onto a sex offender registry, though such addition was not at the court’s discretion.
In a 5-4 decision in November 2022, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the automatic sex offender register is unconstitutional. Those added to the National Sex Offender Registry since 2011 can apply to change their status. Ndhlovu himself will not be added to the sex offender registry.
How Does This Apply to America?
The Canadian Supreme Court ruled against mandatory sex offender registration as over inclusive. Certain jurisdictions in the United States cast the same net as America’s northern neighbor. Some American jurisdictions require registration for “offenses” such as public urination or for children and teens experimenting with those in a similar age range. Juvenile convictions account for as much as 25 percent of the registrants. Children as young as 9 have been placed on sex offender registries, according to Human Rights Watch.
The definition of a “sex crime” is too elastic to turn a sex offender registry an involuntary punishment. The goal of a sex offender registry is to protect children, not to punish them. Yet scores of those on the registry were placed upon it not for harming children, but for engaging in childish harms. Mandatory sentencing alone is controversial enough; mandatory public shaming for childhood experimenting is too cruel and unusual to be constitutional. The Canadian Supreme Court made the right decision and it should be extended into America.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Need Help with Sexual Assault Charges?
If you are accused of sexual assault, your first step should contact a criminal defense attorney. The consequences of a conviction can be severe and may affect all aspects of your life, even future employment. You may also be required to register as a sex offender. An attorney can review your case, advise you of your rights, and represent you during any court proceedings.
If you were a victim of sexual assault, you should report it to law enforcement immediately. You should also contact an attorney regarding the possibility of a civil lawsuit. You can prevail in a civil suit even if there is not enough evidence for a criminal conviction.